Tourism Authority of Thailand
License Number: 11/2802
Each year in late November to early December, the world famous River Kwai Bridge built by Allied prisoners-of-war during World War II, becomes the focal point of celebrations. Event highlights include historical and archaeological exhibits, a carnival, fo
Last Modified On: Tuesday, 26/June/2007 04:05:01am
Back to Previous
The River Kwai Railway was built during World War II following the Japanese army’s plan to facilitate the transport of provisions and strategic weapons from Thailand to Burma. The 303.95 kilometers route which started at Tambon Nong Pla Dook, Kanchanaburi province, went north across the Kwai river at Ban Ta Ma Kham. Then it skirted along Kwai Noi and ended at the Dan Chedi Sam Ong border, where it came to join the rail route on the Burmese side of the border, making the total distance 415 kilometers.
The railway, which has came to be known as “the railway of death”, claimed the lives of 21,399 prisoners of war. Used as workers, almost all perished from starvation and malaria. The track-laying work was fraught with danger. Most perilous was the construction at a crossing over the Kwai River. In the beginning, a temporary wooden bridge was built. The prisoners of war, under close supervision by the Japanese army, worked in shifts non-stop. After three months of hard toil, the bridge was completed in February 1943, making the track-laying work ahead of the river easier and faster.
A permanent bridge was built soon after. During construction, the eleven-section steel bridge was repeatedly air bombed by the Allied forces. At one time, a part of it was damaged beyond use, and transportation had to be through a diversion route. After its completion, the wooden bridge was razed.
With the defeat of the Japanese army, the British army, in 1946, tore down 30 kilometers of the rail on the Burmese side and 6 on the Thai side, thereby putting it out of use. At the end of the year, however, the Thai government purchased the railway together with its equipment from the British at a price of 1,250,000 pounds. Renovation work has put some parts of the railway in use again.
Contact information: TAT Central Office - Region 1Tel: +66 (0) 3451 1200, (0) 3451 2500
November 24 - December 7, 2007: Kanchanaburi Province